When Beauty is a Beast.

Posted by Joy Cannis

Psalm139 Some days, when standing before my reflection, stripped of everything…motives, guilt, expectations, past images…I can honestly look at my body and speak the words of Psalm 139.

I do well most of the time, but when the body image monster sneaks up on me, it does so with a vengeance. I go from being comfortable in my skin to feeling like the reflection in a fun-house mirror. I wonder whose body I’m trapped in and when the merger occurred. I see my curves as too curvy. My hair appears dull. My laugh lines are deep and obvious. My image is distorted.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food and exercise is less than ideal.

On the days when I’m not appreciating my laugh lines, the curve of my hips or the scar on my belly (that provided a safe delivery for our son) I remember the verse that I have given out to so many women and girls. “I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!” Psalm 139:14

3F9B9262 And then, I think of the girls who have entrusted me with their story. The ones who have cut marks
into their skin with razors, stuck their finger down their throat to purge the pain, starved their body in hopes of starving the monster within and numbed loneliness with substances. The ones who count on me to speak wisdom from my life experiences into their heart and mind. I think of their faces and their fragile image of self. The fact that I have been chosen to speak truth about their incredible worth is confirmation that I cannot go down the road of ego induced thinking. I have to continually humble myself before the Father and ask Him to speak what is true directly into my spirit.

 

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These are the times when He whispers my name, “Chosen one. Beloved daughter. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

I am not the crease in my brow or the lines encompassing my eyes. I am not the stomach lacking definition or the thighs that will never fit into a size 4 again. I am not the arms that hide from sleeveless shirts or the chest that is, at times, less than manageable. I am not the chin that is no longer well-defined or the insipid, brown hair on my head. The fact that more things jiggle when I walk than I would like, does not decrease my value or deflect me from my purpose. All of these things make up my physique, but they no longer define me.

I have to be vulnerable and honest about the fact that I still struggle. What better way for the evil one to derail our ability to positively influence others than by attacking our self worth? We need to know that we’re not alone in the struggle. We need to remind each other of the truth that never changes, “My Creator knows me and He calls me by name.”

I am a child of God. Made in His image. Created with great purpose and craftsmanship. I am His masterpiece. Dearly beloved. Beautiful in His sight. Purchased with His blood. Worth dying for.

And darling, so are you.

Learning Through Seasons Of Change and Letting Go.

Posted by Trisha Davis

Recently, my husband Justin was sifting through photos and found this gem of our three young boys from one of our favorite vacations to date!

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The picture below is just four years later!

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Countless pounds and inches have been added to our family (unfortunately not all of them by my boys, but that’s for another blog post).

I was so taken back at the contrast not only in the physical appearance of my boys but also how drastically different our seasons of life have changed. Four years ago no one was driving, or dating, or visiting colleges or had all their grown-up teeth. It was a sweet season full of rhythm and familiarity. Four years ago our family was “in the groove” and as a lover of rhythm and routine, this was one of my best seasons to date.

Four years later, as awesome as it has been to see my boys grow and mature, so much has changed. SO MUCH. Routine and rhythm have been replaced by lots of “firsts.” First time to drive a car; first time to go to prom; first time to visit a college. You wouldn’t expect to deal with so many firsts in the latter years of your kids growing up. The hardest part of all these “firsts” isn’t just the massive amounts of change that comes with it but knowing the purpose of it all is to eventually let go.

Let go of a season.

Let go of a period in time I will never get back.

Let go of being in charge of my children’s lives.

This is the part of the post I’m assuming you’re expecting me to impart some awesome knowledge about how to navigate through this season without constant crocodile tears. Umm…I’m not quite there yet and honestly I’m still figuring it all out. But this post isn’t about parenting but rather lessons I’m learning in a season of change and letting go.

Lessons I believe we often wrestle with in ministry but suffer through alone. Lessons about how all of us wish for the rhythm and familiarity of ministry to remain constant. Lessons, which are teaching me that change and letting go are as important as the days of familiar.

I wanted to share three lessons I’m learning through this season of change and letting go.

  1. The church will change.

Your church will always experience “firsts” regardless of its size. Many of us have known sweet seasons of rhythm and familiarity in which ministry ebbs and flows at a familiar pace. But eventually there will come a time in ministry, where one of those “firsts” will be embracing unwanted change. And oftentimes change leads to letting go.

It’s okay to feel the tension of change. It’s even okay to feel sad and/or hurt. But change is the beginning path to growth. It’s usually in the midst of the chaos of change we grow closer to God AND in our capacity to keep leading and loving it. 

2. People change.

We grow to love our staff and the people who attend our church but often feel slighted when they choose to leave. What I’ve learned in my current season of life is I DON’T want my oldest son to leave! In fact, I would like him to stay 18 forever! (Don’t judge, like I said I’m still figuring this one out). Although God’s plan was for my son to be a part of our family for many seasons, this next season to which God is calling him to requires us to let him go. Letting him go without guilt to enter this normal and natural next season of life and celebrating him along the way.

Who do you need to let go of and celebrate even if it means they will no longer be involved in your daily life or the life of your ministry?

3. You will change.

Four years from now I’m certain you will experience change. Your hopes, dreams, desires, and capacity will change with each season. The one constant that will never change is your choice to daily choose to live life to the fullest. Because in the end, our ultimate goal is to one day let go of our life here on earth and enter to our eternal season with Jesus.

How can our Leading and Loving It community pray for you in the midst of your season?

You Are Not Alone.

Posted by Tamera Ford

CIRCLE I recently read an article that listed statistics about pastors.

The sad numbers spoke volumes.

70% of pastors constantly fight depression. 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors. 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.

50%  are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

These are just a few, the lists went on and on.  I kept thinking, “If pastors are feeling like this, how are their wives feeling?”  A survey taken by H.B. London, a pastor for 31 years and vice president of Ministry Outreach/Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family, found that pastors wives dealt with the same issues as their husbands only loneliness was at the top of their list.

Loneliness.  King David knew a little bit about loneliness. In Psalm 142:4 NIV he said, “ I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.”  It is so easy to feel this way, especially when life and ministry is hard.

This last weekend I spent two days with a small group of women that I have known for 20+ years. We live hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles away from each other but for two days we made the effort to be together.  In the midst of the shopping and pedicures and late nights chatting around a bag of M&M’s, the masks that we wear, so beautifully, began to be removed and we let our loneliness be seen.  No one’s loneliness was shocking because we had all been there.  Instead of judging, we encouraged each other.  We cheered each other on because  at one time or another, we have all had to stare down discouragement, drive back insecurity, and fight the good fight of faith and it felt very much like we were alone.

But we were not. We are not in this alone.

Getting together reminded me once again that God will use people to circle around me no matter what I face.

In Psalm 142 (Message), King David continues to cry out to God and in the end he too is reminded of this same thing.

Look right, look left—
there’s not a soul who cares what happens!
I’m up against it, with no exit—
bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out:
‘You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!’
Oh listen, please listen;
I’ve never been this low.
Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;
I’m no match for them.
Get me out of this dungeon
so I can thank you in public.

Your people will form a circle around me
and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!”

When we allow the right people to circle around us, they bring strength, correction, encouragement and instead of the dry heat of standing alone we will experience showers of blessing.  We don’t have to walk alone.

If you are a woman in the ministry and you have felt alone, you need to know that Leading and Loving It is dedicated to providing a circle for you.  ConnectLIVE groups are just that, circles of women in the same area of ministry that you stand in. They gather once a month via Google+ and pray for, laugh with and cheer each other on.  Leading & Loving It also has ConnectLOCAL, JustONE Conference, Re:TREAT and Mentor Me, which are full of women who will circle around you.

You may feel lonely but that can change. You are not alone.

Running Into His Arms.

Posted by Mardia Lira

babygirl embracing A few days ago while my little 3 year old daughter was playing at the park with her cousins, a huge flying beetle (called “Mallate”) landed on her head. All her cousins were yelling while trying to help her out. She got up and without hesitation started her long and desperate run towards me. It seemed like that run was taking forever. I was at the other side of the park and when I saw her running desperately I knew that something really bad was happening, so I ran to her. In the midst of screams and a big and strong waving of her hands she jump into my arms and held me really tight. The Mallate (horrible insect) had flown away a long time ago. It only took a few seconds for her to feel safe, secure and filled with confidence, she kissed me and went back to play.

In ministry I have experienced the same feeling. Just when I am feeling confident or I feel like I am mastering a certain area something unexpected happens and I go into panic mode again. It is in moments like this when it’s so good to know that in His presence we can find peace and the strength we need and I can run into His arms.

Jesus walked the same road we have walked; He experienced the same temptations and needs that you and I have experienced and is ready to listen to us and helps us. We can come to Him. How beautiful it is to have God as our refuge in our time of need!

He loves me just the way I am and He knows all my imperfections. There’s nothing you have done and nothing you could do that can separate you from His love.

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testing we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Make a decision today to come to God with confidence. Confident His loving embrace is always available to you. Confident He wants to hear you when you speak to Him. Confident in His big love for you.

Connecting to the Source.

Posted by Stephanie Shouse

AirplaneOxygenMasks-1161 My husband & I were recently on a plane and the flight attendants began giving their safety demonstration. To be honest, it can be a bit disconcerting to be told how to use your seat cushion as a flotation device when you’re about to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, but since I’m a good Christian I didn’t let anyone see my nervousness…gotta keep a good face on things, right?

Anyway, something I noticed while trying to hide my growing trepidation was their instructions regarding the oxygen masks. They emphasized that if you were traveling with a child or someone who needed assistance, you must first put on your own oxygen mask and then help the person with you. Being a good mama I found that completely ridiculous! How in the world could I be so selfish as to put my own mask on before helping my child?! But then it began to dawn on me: if I focus on giving others what they need without taking in what I need, then I will be no help to anyone.

Oh how true this principle is in my spiritual life! As a pastor’s wife I find myself often running on empty. I spend so much of my time and energy pouring into other people that it doesn’t take long before I’m burned out and exhausted. But if I will spend some time each day getting myself connected to the Source of Life, I’ve found I have so much more to give to others.

One of my favorite things I’ve learned from the ladies in the Leading & Loving It community is to serve others out of an overflow of my own relationship with God. Writing children’s church curriculum, preparing to lead the women’s Bible study, or even listening to my husband preach cannot take the place of my own personal time spent with God. No matter how busy my life gets, I MUST find time to get alone with Him. Making this time with God a priority is not being selfish, it’s being wise.

Set your alarm a little earlier, turn on Veggie Tales for the kids, lock yourself in the bathroom before your teenagers need the shower, put on your headphones while your hubby watches ESPN… whatever it takes…but find some time to connect with God. Allow Him to fill you daily so that you can serve others out of an overflow of your own relationship with Him. You will find your service to be much easier, your leadership to be stronger, and your heart to be fuller.

How are you connecting to God these days? What tips do you have for making time to be filled before pouring into others?